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    Madonna & Friends Raise Funds for Malawi

    When Madonna extends an invitation, A-listers heed the call.

    They did as much in New York Wednesday night when a star-studded list of guests descended upon the black carpet set up outside the United Nations, where the erstwhile Material Girl endeavored to achieve more selfless ends, raising upwards of $3.7 million for both her own Raising Malawi charity and UNICEF to benefit poor children worldwide as well as those affected by Africa's AIDS crisis.

    "I want to put Raising Malawi on the map," Madonna told E! News on why she decided to host the fund-raising evening. "I want to help vulnerable children around the world and to get other people to do the same."

    While she may still be working on the former, she can definitely cross the latter off her to-do list.

    The evening was a combination dinner and live auction to raise money for the charity, followed by a cocktail party complete with requisite A-list musical guests. Before even getting the chance to spread the wealth at the night's auction, the formidable roster of attendees was required to fork over the dinner's charity-assisting entrance fee of $2,500-per-plate.

    In addition to the pop queen herself, who was accompanied at the benefit by 11-year-old daughter Lourdes, celeb pals Rosie O'Donnell, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, Gwyneth Paltrow, Diddy, Angie Harmon, Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, Brooke Shields, Ellen Pompeo, Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld, Donald Trump, Amy Adams, Djimon Hounsou and Kimora Lee, Dita Von Teese and U.N. celeb ambassadors Lucy Liu and Téa Leoni were all in attendance.

    Salma Hayek was also present for the gathering, which was sponsored, somewhat controversially, by Gucci, the head of whom is Hayek's fiancé and baby daddy Francois-Henri Pinault.

    Rihanna, Timbaland, Nelly Furtado and Alicia Keys performed following the live auction, which was hosted by Chris Rock.

    While some of the guests were there to support the cause, others were there to support their friends (and still others were no doubt present for the enormous publicity the event offered, though they, for the most part, failed to admit as much).

    "I think it's incredible. It's so inspiring, and it makes everything else not seem so important and that's why we're here," Stefani told E! News.

    Paltrow, meanwhile, said an evening with her longtime pal was enough of a reason to get out of the house.

    "I came out to support my ol' friend Madonna."

    She managed it in spades. The auction's biggest-ticket item was the chance to tour with Madonna and attend a dance class with her and Paltrow. The item sold for $600,000.

    Cruise, meanwhile, bid $100,000 for a sports package which included a trip to Yankee Stadium with Alex Rodriguez and a private hourlong soccer lesson from pal David Beckham. He ultimately was outbid on the prize, which went for $350,000.

    Though the Beckhams were not present at the event, there was no lack of celeb eye candy on display, with the turnout for the event worthy—if not worthier—than any red carpet Hollywood has offered in recent months.

    "We feel great, we're happy to be here for such a great cause and, you know, it takes a lot for me to get out of the house these days," an about-to-burst Lopez said, who joked that she and Anthony were "up to 16 kids so far."

    Diddy seemed to concur, offering up props to bash-thrower Madonna: "When she does it, she does it big!"

    Barrymore, meanwhile, also a U.N. goodwill ambassador, seemed pleased to have a valid outlet for the glare of celebrity, telling E! News that she "appreciates" Madonna and is much happier being filmed at a charity event than for walking her dog through an airport.

    "Thrilled to be invited, thrilled to be asked—I feel like I'm in the 'in' crowd, the glamorous people," Harmon said of her own invitation.

    As for Madonna, she said the star-studded event was intended to focus some of the spotlight on not only Malawi but children in general.

    Her own experiences as a parent of three, including son David whom the star and hubby Guy Ritchie adopted from Malawi in 2006, helped her decide to focus her charitable intentions on children in need.

    As for daughter Lourdes, who rarely left her mother's side over the course of the evening, she did concede to E! News that, nice as it is having Madonna as a mother, "it is tough."

    While the event will go down as a major success, Madonna herself had a tough time leading up to the night, taking a bit of a beating in the press over the blending of charity with commercial needs.

    Though the evening took place on the grounds of the United Nations headquarters, the entire night, which happened to fall smack in the middle of New York Fashion Week, was paid for by Gucci, which saw fit to tie the bash into the Friday opening of its Manhattan flagship store.

    As a result, the design house's logo was plastered alongside UNICEF's on backdrops that lined every conceivable area where celebrities might be photographed.

    While the United Nations Children's Fund relies on roughly $1 billion in private-sector donations each year, the Raising Malawi charity dinner represented the first time ever that an event has had such an unabashedly commercial tie-in, with Gucci-branded tents erected on the U.N.'s north lawn.

    In what's been taken as a sign of disapproval for the event, the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon left town—though his schedule did not demand it—just hours before the event was scheduled to take place. His office also said it would "look into" the possible cross-promotion between the Gucci store's opening and the event.

    For her part, Madonna, no stranger to raised eyebrows, said controversy was inevitable, but was "so happy" that Gucci was so generous in sponsoring the bash.

    "I'm grateful Gucci has underwritten this event," she said.

    All proceeds from the event will be collected by Gucci, which has been tasked with splitting the funds between Raising Malawi and UNICEF.

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